This article is taken from Living Green: The Way of the Greatest Environmentalist (peace be upon him). Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Ali Hani, and Ustad Amjad Tarsin answer questions on care, responsibility and stewardship of the environment. This is the first article in the series.
The environment affects humans and humans affect it. It includes the seas, the earth, the air and the animals that live in it. These are all things that are constituents of human beings’ survival.
The environment is referred to in the very first story in the Quran, the story of Adam, after Allah talks about the miraculous nature of the Quran and divides people into believers, non-believers and hypocrites. He says:
وَإِذۡ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلۡمَلَـٰۤىِٕكَةِ إِنِّی جَاعِل فِی ٱلۡأَرۡضِ خَلِیفَة
“And remind them when your Lord said to the angels: ‘I shall place a noble reigning deputy on earth.’” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 2:30]
Just before this verse, Allah says:
هُوَ ٱلَّذِی خَلَقَ لَكُم مَّا فِی ٱلۡأَرۡضِ جَمِیعا
“It is He who created just everything on earth for your sake” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 2:29]
This is one of the reasons for the creation of everything in the universe. It is not the only reason but it is one of the most important reasons.
This is connected with the very first story in the Quran.
The most correct position regarding the meaning of vice-regency (Khalifa) is that the human being represents Allah Himself. Allah has placed the human being on earth to worship Him and to establish His sacred law.
The vice-regency that is given to human beings is an honor.
وَمَا خَلَقۡتُ ٱلۡجِنَّ وَٱلۡإِنسَ إِلَّا لِیَعۡبُدُونِ
“Nor have I created jinn and Man, but to worship Me” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 51:56]
“Worship” in this verse is in its wider sense. It includes prayer, fasting, but also being kind, gentle and treating other things well.
The greatest of these acts of worship is the knowledge of Allah Himself. Allah says:
ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِی خَلَقَ سَبۡعَ سَمَـٰوَ ٰت وَمِنَ ٱلۡأَرۡضِ مِثۡلَهُنَّۖ یَتَنَزَّلُ ٱلۡأَمۡرُ بَیۡنَهُنَّ لِتَعۡلَمُوۤا۟ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَیۡء قَدِیر وَأَنَّ ٱللَّهَ قَدۡ أَحَاطَ بِكُلِّ شَیۡءٍ عِلۡمَۢا
“Allah it is who created the seven-tiered heavens and created of the earth the like of them; The divine command of destiny ever descends throughout them all; That all of you may know that Allah has absolute power to do anything; And that Allah encompasses everything in knowledge” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 65:12]
Allah also says:
وَسَخَّرَ لَكُم مَّا فِی ٱلسَّمَـٰوَ ٰتِ وَمَا فِی ٱلۡأَرۡضِ جَمِیعا مِّنۡهُۚ
“And has subjected to you everything in the heavens and everything on earth, all of it entirely from Him” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 45:13]
It is clear, therefore, that the human being is the vice-regent of Allah on this earth. Allah created everything that’s on the earth for him.
Allah created the universe with precision and order. He says:
ٱلَّذِیۤ أَحۡسَنَ كُلَّ شَیۡءٍ خَلَقَهُۥۖ
“Who has made surpassing fair everything He has created” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 32:7]
Allah also says:
صُنۡعَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّذِیۤ أَتۡقَنَ كُلَّ شَیۡءٍۚ
“The mighty crafting of Allah, who makes everything perfectly” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 27:88]
Furthermore, He says:
وَأَنۢبَتۡنَا فِیهَا مِن كُلِّ شَیۡء مَّوۡزُون
“And made grow in it of everything composed in perfect balance” [Keller, The Quran Beheld 15:19]
Allah has commanded us to deal with His creation in the universe without doing too little. And without doing too much. We do not consider anything that Allah has permitted for us as unlawful. He made it for us.
At the same time, when we use what He has permitted us to use, it must be in moderation. Use it in a way that is harmonious with the universe.